Saturday, January 16, 2016

President Obama's Weekly Address

In this week's address, the President spoke about the steps we need to take to modernize our unemployment insurance system.

West Wing Week 1/15/16

Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration

Attorney General Loretta Lynch gave the keynote speech at a Department of Justice event honoring the life and legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Oval Office Chat: President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico

On January 15, The President spoke by phone with President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto to congratulate him on the arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and to review broader security and economic issues.  The leaders agreed that two of the most important pillars in the strong and enduring United States – Mexico relationship are a cooperative and supportive security dynamic as well as deep and robust economic bonds. They agreed on the importance of taking steps to advance the approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  President Obama and President Peña Nieto both reaffirmed the importance of all aspects of the bilateral relationship. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Biden Attends the Inauguration of Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales

The Vice President led the United States Presidential Delegation to the Inauguration of President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala on January 14th.  The Vice President was accompanied by a senior U.S. delegation that included Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, Representative Norma Torres of California, Counselor of the State Department Thomas Shannon, National Security Council Senior Director Mark Feierstein, and United States Ambassador to Guatemala Todd Robinson.

During the trip, the Vice President held a bilateral meeting with President Jimmy Morales and members of his future cabinet.  He also held a multilateral meeting with President Morales, President Salvador Sanchez-Ceren of El Salvador and President Juan Orlando Hernandez of Honduras.

The Vice President attended the formal inauguration ceremony for President Morales at the Miguel Angel Asturias Cultural Center in Guatemala City, where he engaged in a bilateral exchange with President Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica.  The Vice President also had the opportunity to meet with President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize, Vice President Salvador Valdes of Cuba and the former King of Spain Juan Carlos.

The Vice President’s presence at the Guatemalan inauguration marked an important milestone in strengthening the bilateral relationship and overall ties with Central America.  The Vice President was the most senior United States official to attend a presidential inauguration in Guatemala since 1986. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Vice President

National Security Council Notes: Meeting on Counter-ISIL


On January 15, President Obama convened his National Security Council to discuss the intensification of our campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL. The President was briefed on recent progress by Iraqi security forces in taking back Ramadi, and on ways we and our partners in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL continue to accelerate and integrate the military campaign on all possible fronts in Iraq and Syria.

The President directed his national security team to continue to intensify ongoing efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL, including by working with our partners to increase our military cooperation, disrupting foreign fighter networks, halting ISIL expansion outside of Syria and Iraq, countering ISIL financing, disrupting any ISIL external plotting efforts, and countering ISIL's propaganda and messaging. The President emphasized that degrading and destroying ISIL will continue to require coordination and cooperation among a wide range of global partners, and the United States is strongly committed to continuing to lead the shared efforts of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

Friday, January 15, 2016

FPWA Hosts Second Annual Faith & Justice Fellowship Clergy Breakfast

FPWA CEO Jennifer Jones Austin moderates panel featuring Rev. Michael Walron, Rev. Chloe Breyer and Rev. Dr. Herbert Daniel Daughtry Sr.

(New York, NY) Yesterday, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) held its second annual Faith & Justice Clergy Breakfast at the historic Riverside Church in Harlem. The breakfast brought together participants of the FPWA Faith & Justice Fellowship Program with more than 100 faith-based leaders from across the city to discuss the role of prophetic witness and what faith and justice looks like in the faith community.

The Faith & Justice Fellowship Program, launched last year in collaboration with the New York Theological Seminary (NYTS), aims to provides its participants with enhanced skills that will enable them to be more effective advocates on behalf of those most in need, and to help promote NYC as a place of equal opportunity for all. 

The fellowship program trains faith leaders to become prophetic witnesses for fair social policies and equal justice. Fellows participate in a series of theologically based courses, seminars related to understanding civic engagement from a theological and biblical perspective, and group retreats centering on personal formation and reflection. 

Speakers at this morning’s breakfast included Rev. Dr. Herbert Daniel Daughtry, Sr., Rev. Michael Walrond and Rev. Chloe Breyer.

Rev. Dr. Herbert Daniel Daughtry Sr. and FPWA CEO Jennifer Jones Austin together at the breakfast.

"I’m honored to be the first recipient of the Faith & Justice Torchbearer Award from FPWA and Ms. Jennifer Jones Austin,” said Rev. Dr. Herbert Daniel Daughtry. “I consider Ms. Jones Austin’s father to be an essential pillar in the faith and social justice movement, and I am proud to have served the community for 58 years."

“Faith-based leaders have historically been at the center of responding to human needs, both through direct service and by raising their voices to challenge policies and change conditions,” said Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO and Executive Director of FPWA. “The Faith & Justice Program recognizes that and supports the need to bring informed and focused voices of members of the faith community to major social service issues at the city, state and federal levels.”

Ten Fellows are part of the 2015-2016 cohort and they include: Rev. Kim Anderson, Pastor, Metropolitan AME Church; Rev. Yolanda Brown, Senior Pastor, Imani’s Quest Ministries; Rev. Phillip Craig, Senior Pastor, Greater Springfield Community Church; Rev. Hector Custodio, Pastor/CEO, Never Forsaken Re-entry Ministries; Rev. Andrea Hargett, Pastor, St. Matthew’s Community AME Church of Hollis; Rev. Lisa Jenkins, Senior Pastor, St. Matthew’s Baptist Church of Harlem; Rev. Mark Kellar, Pastor, First Reformed Church of Jamaica; Rev. Chris Lawrence, Pastor, Church of the Living Hope; Ms. Nilza Oyola, Chief Operations Officer, Latino Pastoral Action Center; Rev. Nigel Pearce, Senior Pastor, Grace Congregational Church of Harlem. 

Source: The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA)

9/11 Widower Invites Ted Cruz to Ground Zero to See ‘New York Values’

By Michael Daly

So the Texas senator thinks the city’s values are somehow different from those of the rest of America? He should take himself to the city’s 9/11 Memorial for enlightenment.

From the husband of an NYPD police officer who died on 9/11 comes an invitation to Sen. Ted Cruz.

“Senator Cruz, I was disappointed by your disparaging remarks about New York values somehow being different from Iowa and New Hampshire values,” read a Facebook post by retired NYPD Police Officer Jim Smith, husband of fallen Police Officer Moira Smith. “I invite you to come to the National 9-11 Memorial and Museum and see for yourself, and perhaps learn something about, the values of New Yorkers and the Heroes who defended American values on September 11th, 2001.” 

Click here for the full article.

Source: The Daily Beast

Charter, Multicultural Leadership Organizations Reach Agreement on Diversity and Inclusion Efforts


STAMFORD, Conn., Jan. 15, 2015 -- Charter Communications and leaders of leading national civic organizations serving communities of color announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will take effect upon the closing of Charter’s pending merger with Time Warner Cable and acquisition of Bright House Networks. New Charter is committed to continuing the diversity and inclusion practices developed by the three companies and will build upon existing diversity efforts in the specific areas of corporate governance, employment and workforce recruitment, procurement, programming, and philanthropy and community investment. 

“We are very pleased to have reached this important memorandum of understanding, which reflects our commitment to the fundamental values of diversity and inclusion,” said Tom Rutledge, president and chief executive officer of Charter. “Charter strives to reflect the great diversity of the communities we serve in all our business practices as a key component of our continued success.” 

The MOU identifies specific diversity initiatives and establishes a plan of action to guide the collaborative efforts of New Charter and a wide array of diverse civic and leadership organizations.  As part of the MOU, Charter has committed to a number of concrete actions, including appointing one African American, one Asian American/Pacific Islander and one Latino American to its newly formed board of directors within two years of the close of the transaction. New Charter will also appoint a Chief Diversity Officer who will lead the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts. The MOU also includes a number of specific steps New Charter will take to increase diversity among its workforce, improve diversity in the procurement of goods and services, expand programming targeting diverse audiences, and enhance its involvement and investment in organizations serving communities of color.

The following twelve multicultural leadership organizations have agreed to sign the MOU: National Urban League, National Action Network, National Council of La Raza, League of United Latin American Citizens, National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, SER-National, Hispanic Federation, Asian Americans Advancing Justice I AAJC, OCA—Asian Pacific American Advocates, Media Action Network for Asian Americans, East West Players, and the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies.

Support for Charter's Memorandum of Understanding:

National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, who led the multicultural organizations that worked with Charter to fashion the MOU, made the following statement:  “The Charter MOU contains the ‘best of the best’ practices for diversity and inclusion.  Substantively it addresses every one of the key elements of equal service to all communities:  governance, employment, procurement, programming, and community engagement.  Since the effectuation of the MOU is contingent upon the closing of Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, we encourage the Federal Communications Commission to afford the proposed transactions expedited consideration.”

Rev. Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network provided the following statement regarding the MOU. “This agreement is another marker of progress that brings with it special resonance on Dr. King’s birthday – together we are continuing to move closer to achieving his dream of equality in America. The MOU is strengthened by these diverse groups coming together with Charter to affirm their commitment to a future of greater inclusion and diversity. Far beyond just superficial statements, Charter is making concrete assurances to enhance multicultural leadership in corporate governance, their workforce, procurement, programming and community investment. The enactment of the agreement is contingent upon approval of Charter’s merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House – and for that reason we urge regulators to expedite this process.” 

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National President Roger Rocha provided support from the Latino community. “We thank Charter for committing to improve diversity and inclusion throughout the company and for its willingness to enhance its services and support of the Latino community. LULAC strongly advocates for companies to do the right thing in the diversity space especially when it comes to the area of telecommunications. This industry is critical to our community’s educational and professional success in particular because of the opportunities that come with affordable high speed access to the internet. What has been committed to in the MOU is a significant step for the company and we look forward to working with Charter as they implement its provisions.”

Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, said “We believe that the MOU outlines a commitment to working with the Latino community to provide much-needed high speed and affordable internet access, enhanced support for Latino-themed programming in English,  and expanding career and employment opportunities. We welcome the chance to work with Charter on this nascent effort to become a leader in the area of diversity inclusion and engagement.”

“Asian Americans are expected to grow to more than 10 percent of the U.S. population by 2060,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Advancing Justice | AAJC. “Despite our unprecedented growth, we continue to be excluded from diversity and inclusion strategies.  In the media and entertainment industry, our invisibility is perpetuated by the limited acting roles for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the portrayals of our communities that are based on stereotypes and misperceptions. Through this MOU endeavor, New Charter is exercising a leadership opportunity to influence content creation and prioritize programming distribution that accurately reflects the changing face of America, particularly in markets in which there are highly-concentrated AAPI populations, such as Hawaii, New York and Southern California.”

Jose Calderon, President of the Hispanic Federation, said "The Hispanic Federation exists to advance the interests and aspirations of the Hispanic community, especially in the areas of education and economic empowerment. We are committed to working with Charter to ensure that the MOU serves and benefits our students and families through a significant expansion of their low-cost broadband programs, the job training and recruitment of Latinos across their urban markets, and meaningful, systemic and long-term philanthropic investments in our communities."
Source: Charter Communications

Appellate Division Upholds New York State Division of Human Rights Marriage Discrimination Ruling

Governor Andrew Cuomo today praised the decision by the Appellate Division of the New York State Court of Appeals in Gifford, et. al., v. McCarthy, et. al. The Court affirmed an earlier determination by the State Human Rights Division that the owners of Liberty Ridge Farm had illegally discriminated against Melissa and Jennifer McCarthy in refusing to rent their venue to the couple for their wedding.
“We do not tolerate discrimination in New York State – it’s not who we are, and it doesn’t reflect our values,” said Governor Cuomo. “We believe that all people, no matter whom they love, must be treated equally under the law. This ruling says loud and clear that same-sex couples cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation, and I applaud the Court for continuing to place New York State on the right side of history.”  

The McCarthys, like numerous couples before them, wanted to rent Liberty Ridge Farm for their wedding. When one of the owners refused to rent to them, stating “we do not hold same-sex marriages here at the farm,” the couple filed complaints with the New York State Division of Human Rights, which promptly investigated the matter. Following a public hearing, the Commissioner of Human Rights found that Liberty Ridge Farm, LLC, and its owners discriminated against the McCarthys on the basis of their sexual orientation in violation of the Human Rights Law.

Yesterday the Appellate Division, Third Department, confirmed the Division’s determination in its entirety, holding that “Liberty Ridge’s wedding facilities fall comfortably within the broad definition of ‘place of public accommodation” and Liberty Ridge and its owners “discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation when they refused to host the McCarthys wedding on the premises.” The Court noted that the owners “purported willingness to offer some services to the McCarthys does not cure their refusal to provide a service that was offered to the general public.”

The Court dismissed the argument that Liberty Ridge LLC and its owners were entitled to constitutional exemption from the law because of their religious beliefs about marriage. The Human Rights Law contains exemptions for religious organizations; however, the Court noted that the record did not show that the farm was operated for a purpose other than “making a profit through service contracts with customers.”

New York, the Court explained, has an “extremely strong statutory policy of eliminating discrimination.” (Citations and internal quotations omitted.). The Court noted that the determination by New York’s Division of Human Rights “does not require them to participate in the marriage of a same-sex couple. Indeed, the Giffords are free to adhere to and profess their religious beliefs that same-sex couples should not marry, but they must permit same-sex couples to marry on the premises if they choose to allow opposite-sex couples to do so.” 

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

White House Briefing

Spokesman Josh Earnest briefs reporters and responds to their questions on a variety of topics, including Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, Iran nuclear deal implementation, and water contamination in Michigan. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

House Republican Leadership News Conference

House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) held a press conference following the House/Senate Ideas Conference in Baltimore, MD. Speaker Ryan outlined a new pro-growth agenda that focuses on national security, job & economic growth, health care, poverty and restoring the constitution. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Conservatives' Approach to Poverty in the U.S.

Center for Neighborhood Enterprise Founder and President Robert Woodson discusses conservatives' approach to reducing poverty in the U.S., including recent efforts by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to prioritize the issue. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Tavis Smiley on The Covenant with Black America

Author Tavis Smiley discusses his book, The Covenant with Black America: Ten Years Later, about the national plan of action he and other leaders developed in 2006 to address key challenges facing the African American community. 

Click here for video.

Source: C-Span

Gang Prevention Programs: GRAAFICS

The Gang Diversion, Reentry And Absent Fathers Intervention Centers (GRAAFICS) was created to act as a 'Port-Of-Exit' for those young men and women that are genuinely interested in discontinuing negative and/or criminal behavior. GRAAFICS assist active gang members, inactive gang members, the incarcerated, the formerly incarcerated and absent fathers with successfully reforming the attitudes and behaviors that directly contribute to unhealthy decision making.

Each workshop is facilitated by a master instructor personally trained by Dr. Smith himself. Each lesson plan is derived from an evidence based behavior modification curriculum. GRAAFICS also provides professional internships that eventually lead to employment. 

Click here for more information. 


'Flashback Friday': Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. ("Race and Conservatism")

Taped on Oct 7, 1969.

Trailblazers in Black History: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Rare Interview)

Today in History: January 15th

A Deal Is A Deal: NYS Senate Democrat Defends Donald Trump

What You Should Know
By Senator Rev Rubén Díaz
32nd Senatorial District

You should know that in this, my first What You Should Know column of 2016, I would like to talk to you about a donation and a deal made by Donald Trump with the State of New York.

It is important for you to know that back in 2006, Mr. Donald Trump donated a 435-acre park that is located in Westchester County, to the State of New York. This donation was made with the knowledge and agreement that the park would bear Donald Trump's name.

It was a free gift from Donald Trump to the State of New York, which the State of New York accepted with the conditions already stated.

You should also know that there is a group of elected officials here in New York State who now are calling for Donald Trump’s name to be removed from the State Park that he donated, simply because they don’t like Donald Trump.

One of those elected officials is my colleague, Senator Daniel Squadron, who says that he will submit legislation to remove Donald Trump’s name from that State Park.  Senator Squadron decreed: “Mr. Trump has shown that he is unworthy of having a New York State Park named in his honor.”

Ha ha ha!!

Another elected official asking for Donald Trump's name to be removed is Canadian-born Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who lost his bid in 2006 for New York Attorney General.  He has started an online petition in favor of renaming the park.

It is important for you to also know that when Donald Trump gave the parkland to the State of New York, the terms and conditions of his donation was that the park would always carry Donald Trump’s name, and the State accepted these terms.

All politics aside, to me it seems highly immoral to take a gift of 435 acres of land - that costs a fortune - and then want to keep it without abiding by what was agreed originally upon by both the person who gave it and the recipient.

Even though I never attended law school, I believe that the terms of the contract between Donald Trump and the State of New York cannot be overlooked by any of New York’s elected officials.

My dear reader, I would like to suggest that if my colleagues Senator Daniel Squadron, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and all those who don't want to see Donald Trump's name on that park, they should start an effort to give back the parkland, and just return those 435 acres to Donald Trump.

I don't think it is moral to accept land from Donald Trump - or from anyone - with an agreed upon deal for the donor's name to remain on the 435 acres of parkland that he gave, and then to reject and erase the name of the person who gave it.  

Ladies and gentlemen: A deal is a deal, and deals should be read carefully, knowing the consequences - good or bad - because once you sign onto one, it's a deal.

I am Senator Reverend Rubén Díaz, and this is what you should know.

Cuomo: If Ted Cruz Had Any Class, He Would Apologize to the People of New York

This morning, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo called into NY1 to discuss Senator Ted Cruz’ comments about New York values during last night’s Republican Debate. 

Audio of the interview is available here.

Source: Press Office, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

First Read's Morning Clips: 'Drop Dead, Ted'


About Last Night: "Drop Dead, Ted"

If you missed all the action from the GOP debate last night, catch up with the recap from our live blog.

The New York Daily News goes there on Ted Cruz, complete with a Statue of Liberty flipping the bird.
"Drop Dead, Ted. Hey, Cruz: You don't like N.Y. values? Go back to Canada."

Benjy Sarlin's three takeaways: The Trump-Cruz pact is over; everyone's Donald Trump

Perry Bacon Jr. notes that rivals are still going easy on Trump. But is that a blunder?

Click here for the full article.

Source: NBC News

'The G-Man' to Ted Cruz: Kiss... My... Black... Ass!

You know what? Put on some Chap Stick, first. Nobody kisses my ass with chapped lips. 

I'm a New Yorker, a Harlem resident, and proud of it! 

Your comments were extremely disrespectful and offensive to those who died and are dying as a result of the time they spent at Ground Zero in the wake of the September 11 attacks. You need to man up and apologize to the families of all who perished and continue to mourn.  

In the aftermath of the greatest terrorist attack in U.S. history, New York is still standing and, despite varying political positions, its people are still united. THAT is what New York values are all about.

The G-Man

What You Need to Know About the Potential Zika Virus Outbreak

Severe Drought Threatens Food Security in South Africa

South Africa’s national weather service has announced that the country is experiencing the lowest rainfall and driest summer in more than 110 years.Adding that the country suffered its driest year on record in 2015, threatening food security.

According to the weather service, average rainfall was 403 mm, about a third less than the 608 mm annual average and the driest since records began in 1904.

The agricultural sector is being hammered by weeks of heat waves that have scorched grazing land, forcing livestock owners to kill or sell animals. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Africanews.

Zambia Asks South Africa for Emergency Power

Zambia has asked South Africa for up to 300 megawatts (MW) of emergency power to ease an electricity crunch that has hit mining companies already grappling with a slide in global copper prices.

According to the Zambian High Commissioner to Pretoria, Emmanuel Mwamba, Energy minister Dora Siliya made the request in a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma and his energy minister.

It is unclear at this stage what South Africa’s response to the request was. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Africanews.

New Ebola Death Confirmed in Sierra Leone

Health officials in Sierra Leone have confirmed a death from Ebola hours after the World Health Organization declared West Africa clear of the outbreak. 

According to the government spokesman, Abdulai Bayraytay, the death was recorded in the town of Magburaka in Tonkolili District north of Sierra Leone. 

Click here for summary. 

Source: Africanews.

Burkina Issues Arrest Warrant for Speaker of Ivory Coast Parliament – Sources

Guillaume Soro

Reuters, 15/01 16:37 CET

OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) – Burkina Faso has issued an international arrest warrant for Guillaume Soro, the speaker of parliament in Ivory Coast, on charges related to a failed coup last year, military sources said on Friday.

The warrant risks raising tension between the West African neighbors.

Soro and the rebellion he led played a crucial roll in Ivory Coast’s 2011 civil war, backing President Alassane Ouattara’s claim to leadership after his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo refused to recognize his election defeat. 

Click here for summary.

Source: Euronews

U.S. Military Discloses Civilian Casualties in Islamic State Fight

Reuters, 15/01 16:27 CET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military said on Friday eight civilians likely were killed and three wounded in air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria between April 12 and July 4 last year.

It was only the third time since the start of the U.S.-led air campaign against Islamic State in 2014 that the 
U.S. military’s Central Commander has disclosed civilian casualties following its internal investigations.

It has previously reported a total of six civilian deaths in its air campaign.

U.S. military data shows there have been 9,627 U.S.-led coalition air strikes as of Jan. 13, with 6,393 in Iraq and 3,234 in Syria. 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Shimon Peres, Former Israeli PM, Recovering After Heart Attack

Source: Euronews

Ukraine Pushing for Return of Crimea

Source: Euronews

Botched Drug Trial Leaves Six in Serious Condition in France

Source: Euronews

Three Arrested in Hunt for Jakarta Attackers

Source: Euronews

Switzerland ‘Seizes Assets from Migrants’ to Cover Costs

Source: Euronews

Al-Shabaab Militants Claim to Have Killed 61 Kenyan Soldiers in Somalia

Al-Shabaab militants claim to have killed 61 Kenyan soldiers in an assault on an African Union military base in south-west Somalia.

The Islamist insurgents also say they have captured the town of El-Adde, near Somalia’s border with Kenya.

Reports suggest the al-Qaeda-aligned group is battling government forces for control of the base. 

Click here for summary.

Source: Euronews 

Dozens Hospitalized After Chemical Explosion of Toxic Gas at Brazilian Port

Source: Euronews

Oil Price Dips Below $30 Mark with Iran Poised to Crank Up Exports

Oil has dipped below the 30 dollar a barrel price. That represented a drop of 4.5 percent which means it has tumbled a massive 70 percent in the past eighteen months.

Friday’s fall comes amid growing concern for the market as Iran is set to turn its oil taps back on.

And Tehran has plenty of it. It’s reported 22 large crude carriers are floating off the coast 13 of which are fully or almost fully loaded.

Iran’s share in OPEC’s oil reserves is 13.1 percent making it the country with the world’s fourth-biggest proven oil reserves. 

Click here for summary/video.

Source: Euronews

Don’t Blame Us for Refugee Policy Failure, Says EU’s Juncker

 Jean Claude Juncker

EU governments have failed to deliver on the promises they made to tackle Europe’s refugee crisis, the head of the European Commission said on Friday.

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Jean Claude Juncker said the body he leads should not be blamed for the apparent failure of a flagship relocation policy.

“It’s not the Commission that has not delivered,” he said. “But a number of member states have failed to fully deliver on what we need to do and what needs to be done.” 

Click here for the full article.

Source: Euronews

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Governor Cuomo Outlines 2016 Agenda

On January 13, 2016, Governor Cuomo delivered his 2016 State of the State and Executive Budget Address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. The theme of the Governor’s agenda for the year is “Built to Lead,” in recognition of New York’s heritage as a standard bearer throughout US history, the significant progress achieved in the state over the past five years, and New York’s inherent capacity to lead the nation in addressing some of today’s most pressing challenges.

FPWA Responds to Governor Cuomo's Agenda to Combat Poverty

(New York, NY)  – Jennifer Jones Austin, CEO Executive Director at Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), released the following statement in response to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State and Budget Address:

"Governor Cuomo has laid out an ambitious, yet achievable agenda to combat poverty and reduce economic inequity. We stand with him in the fight to raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour, and we remain hopeful that the increase will be funded for the more than 100,000 government contracted human services workers employed by nonprofits. We are especially pleased with the Governor's monumental plan to increase emergency shelter, affordable housing and permanent supportive housing for vulnerable New Yorkers."
The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) is an anti-poverty, policy, and advocacy nonprofit with a membership network of nearly 200 human-service and faith-based organizations. FPWA has been a prominent force in New York City's social services system for more than 92 years, advocating for fair public policies, collaborating with partner agencies, and growing its community-based membership network to meet the needs of New Yorkers. Each year, through its network of member agencies, FPWA reaches close to 1.5 million New Yorkers of all ages, ethnicities, and denominations. FPWA strives to build a city of equal opportunity that reduces poverty, promotes upward mobility, and creates shared prosperity for all New Yorkers. 
Source: The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA)

North Korea: Averting Nuclear War


Expert on the Region Urges President Obama to Avoid a
Conflict and Find a Solution Before He Leaves Office


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Here to provide more detail on North Korea’s latest act of defiance is Dr. Charles Armstrong, the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences Department of History at Columbia University. 

Dr. Armstrong teaches courses on Korean history, U.S./East Asian relations, the Vietnam War, and global history. 

He is a frequent commentator in the U.S. and foreign mass media on contemporary Korean, East Asian, and Asian-American affairs. 

The interview was conducted on January 12, 2016.

The following links offer more information on Dr. Armstrong and his new book, Tyranny of the Weak: North Korea and the World, 1950 - 1992.

Video discussion of Dr. Armstrong's book:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oval Office Chat: President Vladimir Putin of Russia

President Obama spoke today by phone with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. President Obama emphasized the importance of working towards a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine through full implementation of the Minsk agreements by all parties.  The President underscored that the key next step is for the sides to reach agreement on the modalities of local elections in the Donbas region of Ukraine, which must meet Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe standards. The leaders discussed the urgent need to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 on Syria. Further, they noted the necessity of taking steps to foster productive discussions between representatives of the Syrian opposition and regime under United Nations auspices, principally by reducing violence and addressing the urgent humanitarian needs of the Syrian people, especially those living in besieged and hard to reach communities. Finally, they discussed the importance of a strong and united international response to North Koreas nuclear test in defiance of Security Council resolutions. 

Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary

SUNY Student Assembly President Reacts to NY State of the State

The following statement was issued today by SUNY Student Assembly President Thomas D. Mastro. 

"We appreciate the Governor's investment in SUNY and support of keeping budget decisions within the system. Governor Cuomo continues to show dedication toward ensuring that we remain the greatest system of public higher education in the country.  

"However, we are disappointed in the Governor's failure to include in his budget a sensible Maintenance of Effort plan that keeps pace with the reality of increasing inflationary and obligatory costs. When the Governor vetoed the state support bill passed by the legislature, he made it clear that it would be revisited during budget negotiations. Well, we're ready to talk. It is crucial that the state make a good faith effort to maintain their support of SUNY such that the burden does not fall squarely on the shoulders of our students and our campuses.

"We support the renewal of a fair, equitable, and predictable tuition plan and are glad the Governor does too. Students and families must have the ability to predict their financial futures and the renewal of rational tuition does just that. It is critical, however, that the state pays their fair share, that tuition dollars stay on college campuses, that students are consulted, and that tuition is not raised to the maximum allowable threshold.

"We join the Governor in his vision to improve and expand SUNY's involvement with New York's economy. Helping more people be able to afford a higher education degree is the common sense step toward reaching that goal."

Source: The State University of New York Student Assembly (SUNYSA)  

The Iranian Boat Story: False Flag?

By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH 

On January 12, 2016, it was reported that Iran had detained two small U.S. vessels which, they claimed, were picked up in Iranian territory, one or both having reported mechanical difficulties. It was also reported that the Iranian government said that the vessels (apparently too small to have been called "ships") would be returned to U.S. hands "shortly." An "innocent mistake?" Surely it could have been. But given that it just happened to have occurred on the day of President Barack Obama's last State of the Union Address, and given that there are a number of forces around the world which would like nothing better, post hoc, than to undermine his historic Iran Nuclear Deal, it surely could have been something else. "Surely you're not thinking of a false flag attack, are you?" an interlocutor might ask. Well yes, that's exactly what I'm thinking about.

Let me just list the possible perpetrators here. If more information comes out, we can delve into further details at a later date. First of all, the Republican Party is totally opposed to the Deal, because A) it is a major feather in President Obama's cap, B) it might somehow help bring peace to at least part of the Middle East lessening the chances for the Permanent War they are so much in favor of, and C) their Middle Eastern wing (or is it the other way 'round), the Israeli/Likud government, is totally opposed to it for their own reasons. Second of all, there are the right-wing elements in Iran which are opposed to the deal, starting with the Revolutionary Guard and the right-wing military-industrial complex sector of the Iranian ruling class that they represent. Third of all, there is the Israeli government/Israeli Defense Force/Israeli military-industrial complex.

Who could have pulled something like this off?  Well, in no particular order, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (al Quds), the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, an anti-Iranian government terrorist grouping called the "Mujaheddin-e Khalg" (known as the MEK or MKO in the West).  (In 2006 Seymour Hersh published an article in The New Yorker in which he claimed that Bush/Cheney were supporting the MEK. Remnants of them may still be in existence inside Iran. Given their possible connections with Bush/Cheney, they would certainly have a reason to try to show up President Obama on this particular day.) Or some anti-Obama unit of US intelligence could have made sure that the “mechanical difficulties” which supposedly caused the vessels to drift into Iranian waters actually occurred.  Or what have you.

And it is this one day in a particular that raises this whole question. Of course conspiracy theories abound. Many involving the United States --- think Tonkin Gulf, think the original overthrow of the first democratically elected Iranian government in 1953, think "bay of Pigs," think the Allende coup, think "Iran-Contra," think George Bush I tricking Iraq into attacking Kuwait in 1991, and so on and so forth --- have been proven correct.  Others, such as Obama's "Plan to Grab all Your Guns" are the stuff of total fiction. But there are certainly a variety of interested parties that could have pulled off this very peculiarly-timed event.

Fortunately, the Iranian government intervened very quickly and the vessels and crews were to be quickly returned to U.S. control. But questions do remain, don't they? One being, will some Republican shout out about the incident during the President's State of the Union Address?


Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books.  In addition to being Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post, he is: a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement; a “Trusted Author” for Op-Ed; a contributor to the “Writing for Godot” section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man. He is the Editorial Director and a Contributing Author for  Further, he is an occasional Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter, BuzzFlash Commentary, and Dandelion Salad.
Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.